The first radio station went on the air in 1909 in San Jose CA. One hundred years later that station is KCBS in San Francisco. Two San Jose State University professors did the research and tell the story, in a book, and in a PBS documentary. This is an video excerpt from producer Mike Adams, "Broadcasting's Forgotten Father: The Charles Herrold Story."

In April 1909 Charles David Herrold, an electronics instructor in San Jose, California constructed a broadcasting station. It used spark gap technology, but modulated the carrier frequency with the human voice, and later music. The station "San Jose Calling" (there were no call letters), continued to eventually become today's KCBS in San Francisco.

Herrold, the son of a Santa Clara Valley farmer, coined the terms "narrowcasting" and "broadcasting", respectively to identify transmissions destined for a single receiver such as that on board a ship, and those transmissions destined for a general audience. (The term "broadcasting" had been used in farming to define the tossing of seed in all directions.)

Charles Herrold did not claim to be the first to transmit the human voice, but he claimed to be the first to conduct "broadcasting". To help the radio signal to spread in all directions, he designed some omnidirectional antennas, which he mounted on the rooftops of various buildings in San Jose. Herrold also claims to be the first broadcaster to accept advertising (he exchanged publicity for a local record store for records to play on his station), though this dubious honor usually is foisted on WEAF (1922).

Related features:

  1. "Herrold's historic radio broadcasts"  in San Jose Mercury News. >
  2. "History of KQW and KCBS, The Charles Herrold story">
  3. "Charles Herrold, America's first broadcaster.">

The First Radio Station On Air in 1909